Georgia: Billionaire Ivanishvili Refuses to be Number Two
To paraphrase Jean-Paul Sartre, politicians, like all dreamers, sometimes seem to confuse disenchantment and truth. This time round, it's the turn of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, dreamer-in-chief of the opposition Georgian Dream movement, who refuses to accept a reported truth -- at least, in the form of an opinion poll -- which portrays him as number two on Georgians’ list of favorite politicians.
The oligarch-turned-politician says that there must be something wrong with a recent opinion poll by the National Democratic Institute, the American non-governmental organization, which apparently does not put him in first place in terms of popular support, but rather behind President Mikheil Saakashvili and his ruling United National Movement Party (UNM).
Leaked ratings of political parties, part of a broader public opinion survey, reportedly show that if Georgians were to vote for a president tomorrow, 28 percent would support a UNM candidate and 12 percent would cast their votes for Ivanishvili, Interpressnews reported on March 27. Similarly, 47 percent said they would support the UNM over the Georgian Dream in this October's parliamentary election, Civil.ge reported. NDI has not responded to the reports.
The Georgian Dream, a coalition of opposition political parties, retorted that “[t]he part of the survey that deals with political parties, not only fails to achieve its goals, but rather has become counterproductive in terms of creating a competitive political environment and allowing citizens to make informed political choices."
At the same time, Georgian Dream did not take issue with another result of the survey, which showed that 70 percent of Georgians want Ivanishvili to be restored as a Georgian citizen. The billionaire’s Georgian passport was revoked soon after he made the move into politics; officials cited a conflict with his then French and Russian citizenships.
The ruling elite, while generally happy with the survey results for obvious reasons, had a surprising take on this desire to see Ivanishvili's Georgian citizenship restored. UNM parliamentarian Nugzar Tsiklauri rationalized it by reasoning that “Ivanishvili is the last pro-Russian bastion in Georgia and, therefore, the people want to see him defeated in an election.”
As Sartre wrote, "Politics is a science. You can demonstrate that you are right and that others are wrong." No doubt the UNM and Georgian Dream would agree.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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